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Some wines are ready to drink when you buy them. Others are considered “age worthy.” A few clues can help you decipher which is which.
Most wine is ready to drink at the time of purchase or within one to two years. These ready-to-drink wines are characterized by the aroma and flavor of fresh, ripe fruit. Often, they have a screw cap. That can be taken as a clue from the producer that the wine should be enjoyed sooner rather than later. Another clue is price. Ready-to-drink wines are typically priced below $20.
On the other hand, a wine that is age worthy has the potential to develop further complexity and may not be at its best in its youth or when you purchase it. Typically, these are red wines and they are priced above $20.
Beyond these simple distinctions, there are two important factors of which you should be aware. The first is the main grape varietal from which a wine is made. Just like people have different personalities and characteristics, so do grape varietals. Some are simpler in flavor, more approachable and ready to appreciate in their youth. Others have many layers of complexity with the ability to develop and enhance over time. Pinot Noir, Merlot and Shiraz from the New World are good examples of wines that are approachable and ready to drink. Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo from the Old World will often get better over time.
The second factor is where the grapes were grown. Smaller, world-class growing regions such as Napa Valley in California, Walla Walla in Washington or Margaux in Bordeaux, for example, produce wines with great complexity—and a higher price tag. Wines from these narrowly defined regions are age worthy. Wines that come from broader areas such as Southeastern Australia, California (the entire state) or Bordeaux (the entire region versus specific villages) do not have the same level of complexity and should be enjoyed sooner. The lower price tag will reflect this.
There are other factors, but the most important is personal taste. Just because a wine can age doesn’t mean you will like it more. Keep tasting wines, think about these clues and reach your own opinion.
This week’s guest blog is by George Staikos, noted educator and founder of The Educated Grape, a company dedicated to interactive wine classes, tastings and special events.
A 25-year veteran of the wine and hospitality industry, George Staikos is known for his role as an educator, sharing his passion for wine appreciation. He is the founder and president of the Educated Grape, a company specializing in interactive education programs and in-home wine entertaining for wine enthusiasts and companies. He is a professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s International School of Hospitality Management, where he teaches “Introduction to the Study of Wine.” He is also Vice Echanson or regional wine director for the mid-Atlantic region for the Chaine des Rotisseurs, a worldwide food-and-wine organization.
Staikos is a graduate of Florida International University in Miami with a Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management. He is married with three children and lives in Flemington.